MyShake App Making Earthquake Prediction Easier
The National Earthquake Information Center reports that millions of earthquakes occur worldwide every year. Of those millions, 30,000 earthquakes are a five or above on the magnitude scale, which can cause severe damage and high death tolls. The MyShake app is hoping to prevent some of the damages earthquakes cause.

Unfortunately, many countries prone to earthquakes happen to be developing countries and the economic cost and loss of lives tend to be higher. For example, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake resulted in $14 billion in damage and somewhere between 220,000-316,000 deaths.

Early warning systems are crucial to reducing the loss of life and damages. Traditionally, networks of seismic sensors measure vibrations in the earth to predict earthquakes. However, many developing countries lack these systems. The Android app MyShake can be a functional alternative to the expensive and complex seismic networks.

A research team at the University of California at Berkeley and Deutsche Telekom AGA collaborated to develop a free app that uses the accelerometer in cell phones to detect possible earthquakes. It is able to correctly identify movement caused by earthquakes as opposed to human movement.

If an earthquake is detected, the app sends the information to the Berkeley labs to confirm the location and magnitude. Testing shows the MyShake app has 93% accuracy and can also predict when aftershocks will occur.

However, this is the early version of the app which is being used to collect global data to establish patterns and trends. The newer version, MyShake 2.0 will be able to issue early warning alerts. Currently, the researchers at Berkeley are working on the iPhone app.

In a statement, Deutsche Telekom said “For many earthquake-prone developing countries such as Nepal or Peru, MyShake could warn potentially affected persons valuable seconds earlier and, ideally, save lives…These countries currently have either only a sparse ground-based seismic network or early warning system, or none at all — but do have millions of smartphone users.”

Two months after its release, the MyShake app had been downloaded 150,000 times. The team encourages everyone to download the app because it can possibly build an extensive worldwide network of earthquake sensors that can give countries without seismic networks an early warning system.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr


Augmented Reality
No other app has taken the world by storm like Pokemon Go and for good reason. The popular mobile game uses a system called augmented reality (AR), which combines the virtual world with the real world to create an immersive and interactive experience. Users of Pokemon Go have been seen wandering the streets with their phones out, trying to catch creatures as they pop up all over town as a result. The phone camera activates when a Pokemon is found, displaying the creature in the user’s immediate surroundings.

Augmented reality has been a lumbering force in technology since the 1970s. Sports channels used an early form of augmented reality, overlaying analysis and information on top of real-time matches. App developers have been utilizing augmented reality to deliver information more frequently since the arrival of Pokemon Go. Nonprofits could easily tap into augmented reality’s potential by using it to spread awareness for their causes in interactive and accessible ways. Four years ago, an organization called Save the Children tried exactly that.

Save the Children teamed up with Aurasma, an augmented reality developer, to create a rudimentary app that opened a video when users pointed their phones at Save the Children newsletters. Users had the option to click through to a donation page after opening the video.

Save the Children Senior Digital Fundraising Executive Alexandra Bono commented on the campaign. “At Save the Children, we are always looking for new ways to engage people with the human stories behind our life-saving appeals,” said Bono. “This campaign, facilitated by Aurasma, brings together these two channels in a compelling new way which we hope will support donations to our East Africa appeal.”

Crisis, a charity to help the homeless, also used Aurasma’s augmented reality app in an art exhibit dedicated to homelessness in the United Kingdom. Viewers could point their phones at the artwork on display to open interviews with the artists.

Now that advanced technology allows apps to display changing landscapes as users walk, the possibility for new charity-related apps is endless. For example, an app could superimpose a real-time image of Rwandan streets onto a New York intersection, giving users a glimpse into Rwandan conditions.

Quit, an anti-smoking foundation, created a similar app that displayed a pair of lungs through webcam. The lungs’ condition accurately reflected the damage done by smoking. If users said they were young and smoke-free, the lungs displayed would appear perfectly healthy. If users said they were lifetime smokers, the lungs appeared blacker and shriveled.

Charities can effectively grab the attention of Generation Y by continuously innovating and finding new ways to manipulate technology.

Regina Park

Photo: Flickr